A collection of flora from the pacific wonderland.


Columbia Gorge from Dog Mountain, WA, 5/2013

Columbia Gorge from Dog Mountain, WA, 5/2013

While the internet is a great resource for identifying and learning about wildflowers, most wildflower enthusiasts will eventually want to pick up some guides in book form.  Here are some that we own and recommend:

  • Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson (Timber Press Inc., 2006) – This giant book has nearly every wildflower you would encounter, arranged by color.  However, the numerous entries can make identification difficult.  Excellent photos (many are on Mark Turner’s website).  Family names are in latin, a difficulty for the non-botanist.
  • Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge by Russ Jolley (Oregon Historical Society, 1988) – Arranged by vegetative zone rather than color.  The main shortcoming of this book is the lack of much detail and supplemental information.  However, frequent Columbia Gorge hikers will appreciate the listing of locations/seasons where each each flower can be found. (As of this writing, used copies were going for $0.88 on Amazon)
  • Wildflowers of the Canadian Rockies by George W. Scotter & Halle Flygare (McClelland & Stewart, 1986) – A great little book even for those of us south of the Canadian border. Limited selection of full entries for each flower, arranged by color, is sized for a backpack.  A downside is that some photos appear to be shot with a flash. (As of this writing, used copies were going for $0.01 on Amazon-an amazing deal!)
  • Wildflowers 1:  The Cascades by Elizabeth L. Horn (Touchstone press, 1972) – An out-of-print gem arranged one flower per page, by habitat.  The sunny, high-contrast photos date the book.  Hard to beat for information and ‘lore’ (e.g., Native American uses, naming, and other curiosities).
  • Wildflowers of Mount Rainer and the Cascades by Mary A. Fries, Bob & Ira Spring (Mt. Rainer National History Association, 1970) – Like the previous book (and also out-of-print), this contains a wealth of information and interesting lore. Full-color arty photos by noted trail guide authors Bob & Ira Spring (identified by location) place this guide clearly in the 1970s.  The book’s frontspiece notes “Special acknowledgement to Patricia Spring (Ira’s wife) who lent a woman’s patience and fortitude and took about half of the photographs in this book.”
  • Wildflowers of the Western Cascades by Robert A. Ross & Henrietta L. Chambers (Timber Press, 1988) – This excellent book takes the unusual approach of looking at the range of wildflowers on a single mountain (Iron Mountain) in Oregon’s Western Cascades.  Stellar photos, drawings and informative, if sometimes obtuse, descriptions (“The stems and inferior ovaries may be glabrous or pubescent.”) make this book a favorite.
  • Wildflowers Every Child Should Know by Frederic Stack (Doubleday, 1909) – This hundred-year-old guidebook (apparently part of a series of books of things that ‘every child should know’) is enjoyable mainly for the early examples of wildflower photography (mainly black and white, with a few photos colored by hand, some of cut flowers(!)) and the author’s flowery, near-poetic descriptions.  The emphasis is on East Coast varieties, and many of the nicknames have fallen out of use, but lots of fun nonetheless.
  • Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary by Ronald Taylor (Mountain Press, 1992) – This book focuses on the flowers of the “Sagebrush Steppe” east of the Cascades.  The photos are good/excellent, and the descriptions are clear and informative.  We haven’t hiked or backpacked in these areas much, but there’s a lot of overlap with what we see in the Cascades, Olympics and Columbia Gorge–plus used copies are currently going for 17 cents apiece on Amazon!
  • Coastal Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Elizabeth Horn (Mountain Press, 1993) – Same author as Wildflowers 1, same publisher/format as Sagebrush Country.  While focusing on flowers found at or near the coast, this has lots of flowers you’d find all over the Northwest, along with Horn’s immense knowledge of the botany, and history of these plants.  We hope to use this book more on our coastal wildflower hunting trip next spring.  (Only a penny plus shipping!)
  • Cascade-Olympic Natural History by Daniel Matthews (Everbest Printing, 1988) – This book (and its newer editions that tackle climate change impacts), packs a multi-faceted reference of flowers, trees, mosses, birds, mammals, geology,  etc. into a captivating handbook; linking them into a unified system like few other books. Far from the dry reading of many field guides, Matthews writing is clear and frank with a wry sense of humor.  You literally can’t read a page without learning something new.

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